The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Now in Color by Jacqueline Balderrama

This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Now in Color by Jacqueline Balderrama, released by Perugia Press in 2021. 

Spanish Language Film House, 1930s

On Sundays, my grandfather’s pop drives mamá, him, and his siblings
to his uncle’s store for penny candy
and then to The California Theater on Main Street.

They follow the girl and her flashlight to their seats.
In his, my grandfather is just tall enough that the tips of his toes
may tap the floor when Carlos Gardel begins to sing.

Guitar in hand, his eyes squint, his head wavering as if he can envision
a kind fate, as if he can see my grandfather chewing candy
along with all the Spanish speakers who’ve come to hear him.

He sings to my grandfather’s parents:
Sueño con el pasado que añoro,
el tiempo viejo que lloro y que nunca volverá

And they know it is for them—everyone in the theater
mirroring the crescent of listeners on screen.
And this is how it is before they buy the store in a few years

and then can’t come as often. Later, my grandfather’s older brother
will move back to México, where in Torreón he’ll host stars
filming in Durango. Here I am right next to Hollywood,

Grandfather says, and he’s out golfing with James Garner,
then throwing a party for Edmond O’Brien
and touring the sets of Westerns.

But I hear Jane Gardner, and for years think he meant Ava Gardner,
picture her as she is in The Night of the Iguana, under moonlight,
dancing more with the ocean than the two men who accompany her.

Watching it now, the waves laugh at my mistake
as they splash about her hips, the storm drawing near,
and my grandfather’s laughter sounds in them too.

Jacqueline Balderrama is the author of Now in Color (Perugia Press, 2020) and the chapbook Nectar and Small (Finishing Line Press, 2019). She serves as a poetry editor for Iron City Magazine and has been involved in the Letras Latinas literary initiative, the ASU Prison Education Program, and the Wasatch Writers in the Schools. Currently, she’s a Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence and Clinical Assistant Professor at Arizona State University for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.


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